As South Africans continue to battle against the ever increasing cost of living, the steep price of cell-phone data has everyone concerned. In order to combat the rising data costs, radio personality and businessman, Tbo Touch has launched a social media campaign that calls for the drop in the price of data. The campaign, referred to as #DataMustFall, follows a series of campaigns that calls for a decrease in data prices. The campaign has led to discussions of the viability of a drop in data cost. It has also led to Research Information and communication technologies (ICT) Africa conducting research on global trends concerning data usage. The research showed that mobile data prices are not changing in South Africa.
In order to understand the outcomes of the study, VOC spoke to researcher and communications and evaluation advisor at Research ICT Africa, Chenai Chair.
Chair explains that the call for decrease data costs is a reasonable request and that the social media campaign launched by Touch raises legitimate concerns.
“I do believe that is a legitimate call for consumers to be concerned about the prices they have been paying and if it means taking to social media to make operators listen, then it is a legitimate call,” Chair stated.
Chair says that the data price is six times higher than the country that has the cheapest price for data.
In addition, she says that operators are offering new promotional products and customized products to get consumers to use data on a daily, weekly or monthly basis as cost effective measures.
“South Africa was not as bad as performing in comparison to other countries given the level of investments. Consumers should be aware of how much they are being charged for. You have to put a microchip on your phone to see what you are paying, for including the speed you are paying for,” Chair said.
He further notes that Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) does play a role in the regulation of data and that the Department Communications requested ICASA to conduct research into regulations around the cost of data.
Chair also stated that she would be hesitant to believe that the high data tariff is a result of collusion among the country’s largest telecom players, Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C and Telkom, and that an investigation is not necessary.
“If we had cheaper data we would have more people online and then we have to include other issues, such as whether or not people have the necessary devices to go online,” she noted.
Chair also believes that consumers have the power to take down big mobile corporations.
She advises consumers to take note for what exactly they are being charged for and for consumers to investigate other pricing options that may turn out to be a cheaper option for them.
“Consumers need to be aware of what they need data for and how they want to use their data,” Chair continued.
VOC (Imran Salie)